A blog post by Phil Sheldrake on 6 April 2020
In my blog just over a week ago I said, ‘it’s eerily quiet out there’…how quickly things change, the silence is now my comfort, my friend, bringing nature closer to me. The birds no longer shouting but singing, uninterrupted by background drone, hum and clatter. So what an indulgent joy it was to hear my favourite lament cascading from a tree behind the house yesterday. I say ‘favourite’, I tend to use the word liberally as I have many ‘favourite’ songsters, indeed many favourite birds, any of which can be claimed at anytime as they rise to an occasion. But this was special – a mistle thrush in full song, enough to make the heart melt. Fantastic! It will be eerie when life returns to ‘normal’.
On another day our peregrine could be my favourite bird, the sheer unforgiving prowess of the bird at any other time of year, the top predator feared by all. She’ll hopefully forgive my wandering attention for these next few weeks as she sits patiently hour after hour. Today it’s the mistle thrush. The mistle thrush is our largest songbird, however, often overlooked by most who marvel at the repeated phrases of its smaller cousin, the song thrush. I prefer the mistle thrush though, not least because it can be heard lamenting on the dark, grey, still of a winter’s day, often foretelling the coming of inclement weather, and giving rise to its mythical name of the ‘stormcock’.
Anyway, back to our collective favourite bird, the peregrine. In my last blog I wrote a bit about the some of the wonderful stories generated by the simple practice of colour ringing our chicks. Well many other peregrine projects also ring their youngsters, and today I received news of another interesting resighting – one of a bird ringed on 12th May 2015, now confirmed nesting at a site near Westbury, Wiltshire. It hatched from a nest on the old Winchester Police HQ building prior to it being demolished, ‘Oh no!’ I hear you cry, well fear not, the loss of the site was adequately mitigated by Keith Betton and friends from the Hampshire Ornithological Society in partnership with Winchester Cathedral through provision of a nesting box which, like ours, is home to our (my) favourite bird in waiting. You can see it here: www.winchester-cathedral.org.uk/the-peregrines-return-in-2020/
About Phil Sheldrake
Phil Sheldrake is the Cathedral’s Nature Conservation Adviser. He describes himself as a social conservationist, focused on bringing people and the natural world closer together. Phil began life as a teacher, but 25 years ago a lifelong love of wildlife signaled a career change and he swapped the classroom for the great outdoors. Starting his RSPB career as a reserves warden in Wales, he went on to manage the Wessex Stone-curlew Recovery Project and most recently covered Wiltshire & Gloucestershire d as Conservation Officer. He is a founder member of the (Eurasian) Curlew Forum, a national network for curlew conservation groups across England. Phil first approached the Cathedral in 2011 with the idea to provide a nest box for the peregrines he had seen roosting on the Tower over winter. In 2014 his efforts were rewarded with peregrines returning to nest successfully after an absence of 61 years. Since then Phil has continued to support the Cathedral in development of the peregrine project including the provision of the webcam to give us a window into the life of this charismatic bird. Phil works closely with another peregrine expert, Granville Pictor of the Wiltshire Ornithological Society and Cathedral Clerk of Works, Gary Price. He also co-ordinates the peregrine ringing, with the help of naturalist Ed Drewitt of the British Trust for Ornithology.